Turkey Project

Turkey in Review: December 28, 2021 – January 18, 2022

Kazakhstan Crisis Exposes Limits of Turkey’s Reach in Central Asia: Rapid developments in Kazakhstan in January 2022 outpaced the Turkey-led Organization of Turkic States’ ability to respond with more than offers of support to the Kazakh government. Ankara’s initial response to the Kazakh crisis was limited to calling for stability and peace. Turkey accelerated its outreach to Kazakhstan, however, after the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) agreed to deploy troops into the Central Asian country. The CSTO deployment, the first time the organization invoked its collective security provision, likely motivated Ankara to take more vigorous steps to ensure Turkey retains a role in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan remains under a state of emergency imposed in response to widespread unrest that began with localized fuel protests.

Turkey May Leverage Syrian Proxies for Afghanistan Mission

There are increasing reports of Turkey’s plans to recruit Syrian fighters for deployment to Afghanistan as Ankara finalizes a deal to secure the Kabul International Airport. Turkish officials may be in talks with at least six Turkish-backed Syrian factions to prepare an initial round of 2,000 Syrians as private contractors for deployment to Afghanistan. Reporting is still limited as of July 20. Ankara’s deployment of Syrian proxies to expand the Turkish footprint and offset casualty risks for the Turkish Armed Forces in Afghanistan would be consistent with recent Turkish military behavior in Libya and Azerbaijan. A long-term Turkish presence in Afghanistan with the risk of Taliban attacks may not serve Ankara’s strategic interests at home or abroad in the long term, however.

Erdogan Seeks to Upend Kremlin-Backed Status Quo in Nagorno-Karabakh

Turkey and Azerbaijan may have jointly planned the Azerbaijani offensive to contest Armenia’s control of Nagorno-Karabakh that reignited that simmering conflict. Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed, Armenian-held region of Nagorno-Karabakh escalated into conventional combat on September 27. International media coverage has largely portrayed the ongoing conflict as the result of a spontaneous escalation. But Turkish-Azerbaijani military cooperation, drone sales, and force mobilization indicate Azerbaijan prepared – with Turkish support - to dispute Armenia’s presence in Nagorno-Karabakh prior to September 27.

The Collapse of Turkey’s Democracy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged from June 24, 2018 snap elections poised to dominate the next decade of politics in Turkey. Erdogan is empowered to further consolidate his domestic power and degrade the rule of law at the expense of his political opponents. The U.S. will face a more nationalistic and more intransigent Turkey.

Turkey Escalates against Pro-Assad Forces to Protect Afrin Operation

The Assad regime and Iran attacked Turkish forces that deployed into Syria with apparent Russian permission to establish a blocking position near a critical front line south of Aleppo City. Turkey’s goal was to deter Assad and Iran from providing military support to Kurdish forces defending Afrin against a Turkish offensive.

Syria’s “War after ISIS” Begins as Turkey Attacks America’s Anti-ISIS Partner

Turkey launched an air-ground operation against the American partner force in Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in Afrin district northwest of Aleppo City on January 20th, 2018. Turkey’s goal is to extend its buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey may subsequently attack the town of Manbij, east of Afrin on the banks of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s operations threaten to provoke a widening Turkish-Kurdish war that could unravel the U.S. stabilization effort in eastern Syria, place U.S. service members in Manbij at risk, and force the U.S. to reconsider support for the YPG.

Turkey's Erdogan Pivots to Target U.S.-Backed Force in Syria

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to attack America’s local partner in northern Syria on two fronts along the Turkish border. Russia and the Bashar al Assad regime support his planned operation, which could constrain the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River and possibly neutralize American plans to build an SDF-linked “border security force.”